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The Opposing Shore [Paperback]

Julian Gracq
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

6 Sep 1993
The narrator of this story, Aldo, a world-weary young aristocrat, is posted to the coast of Syrtes, where the Admiralty keeps the seas constantly patrolled to defend the demarcation between two powers still officially at war. This book won the Prix Goncourt.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (6 Sep 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002712245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002712248
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,800,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Julien Gracq (the pseudonym of Louis Poirier) was born in 1910 in Saint-le-Vieil. His three other novels have appeared in English as A Dark Stranger, The Castle of Argol, and Balcony in the Forest. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Challenging Read 3 July 2006
I have, so far, read about half of this book and found it a difficult read. The prose is complex, poetic, and beautifully written - but requires complete concentration. The descriptive passages often require re-reading to extract the elusive meaning.

I feel that it's one of those books that needs to be read again to fully appreciate its literary merits.

Comparisons have been made with Dino Buzzati's 'The Tartar Steppe', which I would highly recommend.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Masterpiece 11 Nov 2012
By N N Taleb - Published on Amazon.com
Until I read this book, Buzzati's "Il deserto dei tartari" was my favorite novel, perhaps my only novel, the only one I cared to keep re-reading through life. This is, remarkably a very similar story about the antichamber of anticipation (rather than "the antichamber of hope" as I called Buzzati's book), but written in a much finer language, by a real writer (Buzzati was a journalist, which made his prose more functional) ; the style is lapidary with remarkable precision; it has texture, wealth of details, and creates a mesmerizing atmosphere. Once you enter it, you are stuck there. I kept telling myself while reading it: "this is the book". It suddenly replaced the "deserto".
A few caveats/comments. First, I read it in the original French Le Rivage des Syrtes (French Edition), not in this English translation, but I doubt that the translator can mess up such a fine style and the imagery. Second, the blurb says Gracq received the Goncourt prize for it. Julien Gracq REFUSED the Goncourt, he despised the Parisian literary circles and by 1951 decided to stay in the margin. He stuck to his publisher José Corti rather than switch to the fancy Gallimard after his success (as Proust did) (or other publishing houses for the fakes and the selfpromoters). Third, this book came out a few years after Buzzati's "deserto", but before Buzzati was translated into French. I wonder if Gracq had heard of the "deserto"; the coincidence is too strong to be ignored.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A jewel 28 Jan 1998
By zanzibar@injapan.net - Published on Amazon.com
I read the original in French "Le Rivage des Syrtes", poetic, refined, passionate, with chiselled descriptions of landscapes -Gracq is originally a geographer. The whole novel is permeated with an atmosphere of new age poetic doom. It is related to Dino Buzzati's Desert, and was written in approximately the same time (pre war Europe when barbarians were at the gate) but has more depth, more warmth and wealth of details and emotions. Le Rivage des Syrtes is also a jigsaw of geographical and historical references drawn from Persia, Egypt and Venice - reflecting the neverending conflict between civilisation and barbary. But who is who ? This book deserves more international exposure. Read it, it is mesmerizing. The French editor - Jose Corti - sells it with pages which you have to cut open, adding charme to the journey into Gracq's mythic world.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Journey to the End of Civilization 26 Aug 2001
By Doug Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Civilization has grown bored with itself and so in a richly detailed account of a fabled nations collective will, Julien Gracq shows how a people can arrive at a point where destruction is preferable to ongoing decay and stagnation. If you've read Balcony in the Forest you know that Gracq knows something about anticipation and suspense but this is a journey even deeper into the interior of the psyche and is an altogether unique reading experience. Julien Gracq's prose is best read slowly and savoured, he lingers in his descriptions and elaborates each thought with ever richer examples which hone and decorate his meanings. The plot progresses organically and instinctively like a dream unfolding and revealing episode by episode the destructive inclinations of late civilzation consciousness. Dense sensual impressions abound. If French poetry appeals to you as well as the war genre this is your book, though this book far exceeds the normal bounds of war fiction.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Majestic in scope and form 11 Jan 2001
By Manuel Haas - Published on Amazon.com
Even in translation you can feel the lyrical intensity and beauty of this novel which creates an atmosphere of tension which no reader will forget easily: Aldo, a young nobleman, has had enough of the decadence of his native Vezzano, a fictitious republic modeled on Venice. He has himself posted to a navy base which was once built to defend Vezzano against Farghestan. The two powers are still officially at war, but nothing has actually happened for 300 years. Now, however, there is a growing tension, not just inside Aldo, who dreams of the unknown Farghestan. People in Vezzano seem to be tired of its eternal stability, they long for action...
Most of the novel's plot takes place near the old navy base, which is surrounded by a desert landscape which is described with mesmerizing intensity. Little incidents are building up towards an explosion which is only hinted at in the book. People waiting for something to happen in a more and more uncanny slience - that may remind the reader of the fact that the book was written before and during World War II. The decadence longing for action, danger and change, however, seems to me reminiscent of World War I. This is not a book of easy historical analogy. It is a unique work of art which stands completely on its own.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Journey to the End of Civilization 26 Aug 2001
By Doug Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Young, rich and idle Aldo longs for something indefinable, something to break the long dreary spell of his ennui. Opting for a post as an observer at a long decaying naval base, Aldo finds a n atmosphere suitable to his solitary, poetic nature. Ruminations abound in impressionable Aldos head. Gracq's prose works its spell on you just as the old fortifications and sea and desert landscapes work their spell on Aldo. Gracq's fabled land is reminiscent of Europe before WWI but the locales remain unspecific to make the experience all the richer, all the more evocative . His words keep you in a heady state of langurous suspense, his theme nothing less than a whole civilizations collective will which in its boredom has decided to invite doom upon itself. A book for true lovers of literature, French poetry,& war fiction though it far exceeds the usual bounds of that genre.
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